Volleyball preview

Tristan Gavin

Although Whitman College’s women’s volleyball team did not graduate any seniors from their 2011 squad, they are a far cry from the team that won just four of 22 games last year.

The team has not had a senior on the roster in either of the last two seasons, nor have they had a winning season for five years, but they maintain hope that new coach Matt Helm and the leadership of four returning seniors will be enough to get the program going in the right direction. The girls are not willing to settle for small improvement.

Rachel Shober ’13, front, and Olivia Nielson ’13 go up for the block in a drill during last Thursday’s practice. All photos by Halley McCormick.

“Coach Helm told us early on that if we weren’t here to compete for a conference championship, we shouldn’t be here at all,” said senior Olivia Nielson. “[The team] recognize[s] the goal as a challenge, but not an unattainable one.”

“We’ve got all of the pieces to win. We just have to play the way we are capable,” said senior Corie Brewer, referring to the combination of youth and experience that the team has lacked for years.

The last time Whitman volleyball had seniors on the team was when Nielson, Brewer, Rachel Shober and Carrie Cecil were first-years. Now seniors and team leaders, they are joined by healthy junior Jill Davis. Davis, who was selected to the All-NWC Second Team in 2011, led the team in kills last year.

“Jill’s a beast,” said sophomore Jazmin Moledina in reference to her teammate’s ability to step up from the back row and end rallies.

Head women’s volleyball coach Matt Helm leads Rachel Cline ’14 and Courtney Brewer ’13 in a drill at last Thursday’s practice. In his first collegiate coaching position, Helm brings a strong high school coaching record to Whitman’s volleyball program.

The team also returns three of Davis’ classmates, two sophomores, and welcomes three first-years. The diversity of experience brings a welcome competition to the team.

“With a new coach, the competition for playing time has driven us all to get better, but we all compete with the same end result in mind: wins,” said Davis.

In a tournament at Elmhurst College in Illinois, the girls bounced back from losses in the first two matches of the year to win their next two, each in only three sets.

“We were rusty and jittery in the first two games but really found our groove by the third and played the way we know we can,” said Nielson.

The girls look to build upon the wins as they approach their home opener on Sept. 21.

Abby Seethoff ’16 goes for a hit.